United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
A. ROSS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendant Linda Jean
Gartner's Motion to Dismiss Defendant Hartford Insurance
Company of the Midwest (“Hartford”). (Doc. 91.)
Gartner has also filed a Motion for Hearing on the matter.
case arises out of a September 2016 auto collision involving
four vehicles and five people, including Defendant Kelly
Marie Simler. (Doc. 40.) Following the collision, Simler was
the beneficiary of workers' compensation payments made to
her by her employer's workers' compensation carrier,
Hartford. (Id. at ¶ 27; Doc. 88.) Plaintiff
Acuity, A Mutual Insurance Company (“Acuity”)
interpleaded the proceeds of two $1 million insurance
policies that covered the driver who allegedly caused the
collision (“the Proceeds”). In so doing, Acuity
named Hartford as a Defendant, citing a potential right of
subrogation to Simler's recovery arising out of its
workers' compensation coverage. (Doc. 40 at ¶ 27.)
30, 2018, Hartford filed a memorandum notifying the Court and
the other parties that it held a $906, 582.06 lien on
Simler's recovery, “payable from the proceeds . . .
deposited into the Court Registry by [Acuity.]” (Doc.
88.) Thereafter, Gartner filed this Motion, seeking to
dismiss Hartford as an inappropriate party. (Doc. 91.)
Hartford has responded. (Doc. 97.)
is an equitable action controlled by equitable
principles.” Great Am. Ins. Co. v. Bank of
Bellevue, 366 F.2d 289, 293 (8th Cir. 1966) (citations
omitted). Equitable actions are largely left to the sound
discretion of the district court. Hecht Co. v.
Bowles, 321 U.S. 321, 329 (1944) (quoting Meredith
v. City of Winter Haven, 320 U.S. 228, 235 (1943)). This
Court concludes that Hartford is not an appropriate party to
equitable remedy of interpleader requires a single
“thing, debt or duty” subject to multiple,
dependent, and adverse claims. Underwriters at
Lloyd's v. Nichols, 363 F.2d 357, 360 (8th Cir.
1966). At issue here is the limited amount of Proceeds,
subject to the adverse claims of the multiple individuals
involved in the collision. Hartford has no claim to the
Proceeds themselves; its lien is against only what Simler
recovers. To that end, Hartford's interests are aligned
with Simler's, and therefore Hartford's participation
is not required. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 19(a)(1);
see also Kinney v. Schneider Nat. Carriers, Inc.,
200 S.W.3d 607, 614 (Mo.Ct.App. 2006) (removing a party whose
interests were adequately represented by existing parties).
argues that including lienholders as interpleader claimants
“is common and serves the purpose of the federal
interpleader statute.” (Doc. 97 at 2.) In support, it
cites Farmers Ins. Co. Mission, Kan. v. Pers.
Representative of Mitchell, 755 F.Supp. 255 (W.D. Ark.
1989), and S. & Assocs., P.C. v. Ford, No.
4:07-CV-2021 (JCH), 2008 WL 2906857, at *2 (E.D. Mo. July 24,
2008). Like in this case, Mitchell involved
statutory liens arising from medical treatment following a
vehicle accident. 755 F.Supp. at 257. However, the opinion
makes no mention of any Mitchell claimant opposing
the inclusion of the lienholders. See generally,
id. The Court therefore finds Mitchell of
little value other than confirming that a district court may,
in its equitable discretion, allow a lienholder to
is similarly unhelpful. In that case, the interpleaded funds
were $74, 213 in surplus proceeds from a foreclosure sale.
Ford, 2008 WL 2906857, at *1 (the property sold for
more than the balance of the note). Rather than disbursing
the surplus to the homeowner, the seller interpleaded the
funds and named as claimants both the homeowner and the IRS,
which held a $94, 577 tax lien against the homeowner.
Id. Ford differs from this case in two
important aspects: the entirety of the surplus proceeds were
due to the homeowner, and therefore the lienholder claim was
to the whole of the interpleaded funds; and there was no risk
that the IRS's involvement could diminish the amounts
available to other claimants. Here, there is little doubt
that Simler will not be awarded the entirety of the Proceeds
and that Hartford's claim is to something less than the
whole. Hartford's participation is therefore adverse to
the other claimants in a way that was not present in
Ford. Second, there was no other claimant in
Ford who could adequately represent the IRS's
interest in the disbursement of the surplus sale proceeds.
Here, as noted above, Hartford's and Simler's
interests are aligned.
event, the Court has already granted the interpleader count
(see Doc. 82), and the only remaining action left in
this case is the apportionment proceedings. Hartford states
in its memorandum that it “seeks only to appropriately
advise-in anticipation of later apportionment proceedings-of
the existence and current status of its workers[']
compensation lien, ” (Doc. 97 at 2-3), but the Court
concludes that Hartford's lien should have no effect on
the apportionment proceedings because it attaches only to the
monies awarded to Simler, which will not be known until
after the Court has apportioned the Proceeds.
Accordingly, Hartford will have to take additional action
after the apportionment to enforce its lien against Simler,
either through direct negotiation or in a separate action.
The Court therefore concludes that allowing Hartford to
participate in the apportionment process would not eliminate
future litigation or otherwise improve judicial economy. To
the contrary, Hartford's continued participation can only
increase the complexity of this matter by adding an
additional party involved in filings, hearings, and
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendant Linda
Jean Gartner's Motion to Dismiss Defendant Hartford
Insurance Company of the Midwest (Doc. 91), is
IS FURTHER ORDERED that Gartner's Motion for